Chapter 3 Summary

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 561

A friend walks with Kumalo to Carisbrooke, the nearest town that has a train station. Kumalo can see a beautiful view from the platform, but he barely notices it. Instead he sits worrying about the trip ahead.

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Kumalo worries first about money, because the train ticket costs a great deal, and his travel and lodging and medical bills may mount up quickly. If Gertrude is so sick that she needs to come back to Ndotsheni, her ticket home will cost money too.

Kumalo is also anxious about the stories he’s heard about Johannesburg. People say the city is so big, you can walk up and down different streets forever without ever seeing same place more than once. They say the buses are not like the bus in Ndotsheni, which is always going where you want to go. In Johannesburg there are many buses, and if you get on the wrong one, it may take you to the wrong place. Worst of all, if you do not know how to walk in all the traffic, you can get crushed by a car or truck in the street. A young boy from Ndotsheni was killed this way on a trip to the great city.

Instead of voicing his fears, Kumalo thanks his friend for helping him carry the bags. His friend says it was not a problem, but he adds that he needs to ask a favor. A man he knows, Sibeko, has a daughter who moved to Johannesburg to work as a servant for a white woman who used to live near Ndotsheni. Sibeko has not heard from his daughter in almost a year, and he hopes that Kumalo will check on her. Kumalo says he will try, and he accepts a crumpled sheet of paper with an address written on it. 

The train arrives, and Kumalo boards. The cars for white people are nearly empty, but the car for non-Europeans—anyone with dark skin—is full. The passengers see Kumalo’s clerical collar and respectfully make room for him to sit.

Before the train leaves, Kumalo speaks to his friend through the window. He asks why Sibeko did not ask his favor himself. Kumalo’s friend explains that the man did not want to approach the reverend of a church he does not attend. Kumalo scoffs: “Is he not of our people? Can a man go to trouble only for those of his church?”

Loudly, so that everyone on the train can hear him, Kumalo makes a self-important speech about his trip to Johannesburg. He says that he has a great deal to do in the city, but he will make time in his busy schedule to do this favor. The words imply that Kumalo is an experienced traveler who often goes to Johannesburg, and who is completely unfazed by running an important errand there. 

The other passengers gaze at Kumalo with great respect, but he is really full of fear: 

the fear of the unknown, the fear of the great city where boys were killed crossing the street, the fear of Gertrude’s sickness. Deep down the fear for his son. Deep down the fear of a man who lives in a world not made for him…

He gets out his Bible and begins to read, comforting himself with the one part of his life he does not question.

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